Last year, the Tigers lost in the section semifinals for the second straight year against Waseca. Head coach Tim Ellefson said that the goal of the team is to get better everyday. If they bring that mindset of just trying to get better, then the winning and losing will take care of itself. With many of the girls returning, he believes that they can have a successful year.
“I would imagine the girls would agree with me that we wouldn't be happy without contending for a conference title and a section title this year,” Ellefson said. “We think we're right there, but again, a lot of things have to go right for it to happen. But that's what we're looking forward to.”
Ellefson believes that the next step for this team will be more mental than physical. When they're under pressure in a big game, how will they handle those situations? Do they rise to the occasion or go the other way.
“We made a step with that towards the end of the last season,” Ellefson said. “(We) won some big games down the stretch, where earlier in the year we lost some close games. I think the girls, with their experience, success they've had in other sports as well, will help us fight through those close games at the end of the season.”
Experience is a big thing for the Tigers this year. Another important aspect of this team is its depth. The Tigers are a well-rounded bunch, and there's not one person whose far and beyond better than the rest of the team.
“We all have our own advantages that we can bring to the team,” senior Karissa Korson said. “If one's gone, we're not going to be suffering super bad. They love the sport and want to give everything for the team.”
Six of Hutch's top 10 scorers from last year are returning. The big name missing in the lineup is Lexi Wortz, who is a freshman at St. Cloud State University. Still, the Tigers' next top five scorers are all back, starting with senior guard Michael Stamer, who scored 210 points in the regular season. Other top returning scorers include freshman forward Brynn Beffert, senior guard Emma Olberg, junior guard Karissa Korson, senior center Morgan Ellis, and sophomore guard Alyssa Stamer.
Hutchinson likes to attack on offense and defense. While it has the players to slow the game down if it so chooses, Hutch prefers a fast-paced style of game. For defense that means applying pressure to the ball handler, forcing turnovers and capitalizing with a quick points. Ellefson believes the Tigers' pace helps them control the game and play the way they want to play.
“And then if we don't play well,” Ellefson said, “it's on us and not really what they did.”
Making good decisions is an area where improvement is needed, Ellefson said. Whether it's knowing who to pass to on a fast break, or just making a correct read to get the ball to a girl who has a good matchup. Shot selection is something else Ellefson said needs work. The Tigers' goal is to get an open shot at the rim or on the perimeter, so knowing when to shoot or pass is an area of focus in practice.
The girls are confident with how well this group can play.
“There's no one that scares us,” Stamer said.
Ellefson said that the girls have been looking forward to the start of the season, and the time will soon upon them as the first game is 7 p.m. Tuesday when they host the defensing section champion, Marshall.
“I'm super excited and I know everybody else is too, and we all get along really well,” Stamer said. “We all want to do really well this season and we're all willing to work really hard to get there.”